Beneath the scent of swirling sawdust in the 400 block of South Nevada Street, the smell of hops and beer heralds the upcoming opening of Colorado Springs' newest brewery.
There aren't any tables or glasses at Iron Bird Brewing yet, but the tasting of the company's first beer, a Belgian white, is finished and six more brews are in the making for the Aug. 16 grand opening.
"It's amazing when your first brew tastes as good as we think it does," said Aaron Celusta, who owns Iron Bird with Mike Centanne.
Iron Bird is the latest in an explosion of new breweries just south of the hub of downtown. After Fieldhouse Brewing Company opened on South Tejon Street in late June, Iron Bird will be the second brewery to open in the area in less than a month. Another, Gold Camp Brewing Company, is on its way to South Tejon Street this fall.
In spite of the recent growth of craft breweries in Colorado Springs, there seems to be more room for more.
"The craft brewing industry across Colorado is growing, and I think locally we have a number of very successful craft brewers, both downtown and across the city," said Ryan Tefertiller, a city planner and a member of the Downtown Review Board. "But I think we still haven't reached saturation in the market."
To stand out, however, the breweries will have to craft their own identities along with their beers.
Iron Bird's selection of cask ales is one thing that will differentiate it from the other breweries around town, Celusta said. While most breweries have one or two cask ales available at a time, Iron Bird will offer a rotating selection of four ales, along with nine other beers, Celusta said. The beers will be a combination of larger batches brewed on the company's new 220-gallon system, and smaller, more experimental batches created on Centanne's old homebrew system, newly relocated to the brewery from Centanne's home.
The atmosphere Celusta wants to create in the old Art Hardware building at 402 S. Nevada Ave. is also different than anything else Colorado Springs has to offer. Renovations have created "a lot of long, nasty days" for him and Centanne, but Celusta - a former Air Force pilot - hopes the work will pay off in a space reminiscent of a 1940s British pub mixed with the industrial feel of small hangar. The bar area will feature a two-way fireplace and a bartop made of old bowling lanes.
"We want everyone to feel comfy here whether they're in a suit and tie or ride up in a Harley," Celusta said.
Craft brewing is not only defining an area in Colorado Springs; the growth of breweries across Colorado continues to shape the state's identity.
Last year, there were 232 craft brewers in Colorado, up 109 percent from 2009, that pumped at least $249 million into the economy, according to the Colorado Brewers Guild. Colorado has the third highest number of breweries in the country, according to the guild.
Although many people think of Fort Collins or Denver when they picture breweries, Colorado Springs also has a growing craft scene.
"The brew scene has exploded here," Celusta said. "I hate that people are going to Denver for a brewery tour - they should be coming down here."
Established local brewers don't see the new breweries as competition but as additions to a growing community. Celusta and Centanne were warmly welcomed by all the brewers they consulted while developing their business plan.
In the next few months, the brewing community will have another new brewery - Gold Camp Brewing Company. Owner David Shaver hopes to open the 2,300-square-foot space at 1007 S. Tejon St. in October or November, but is still waiting on use permits from the city.
Shaver chose the location because it allows him to be part of downtown and still create a relaxing atmosphere away from the downtown club scene. Along with the casual atmosphere, he hopes that his experimental brews will also draw a variety of customers.
"I want to find a good balance to craft beer for both connoisseurs and Joe Schmoe off the street who just wants a good beer to enjoy," Shaver said.
The additions of Gold Camp and Iron Bird, along with the upcoming openings of nearby apartment buildings and a local bookstore, are part of recent developments to redefine the neighborhood on the southern edge of the city's core.
"The south end of downtown is definitely going through some sort of renaissance. It's really taken off in the last couple of years," said Sarah Harris, development manager at Downtown Partnership. "And neighborhood breweries serve as a connecting point. It's kind of the idea of the neighborhood coffee shop."